5 Minutes to Build Resilience

Resilience Expert Shares the Tools for Real Life Resilience

Five minutes—the time it takes to make a pot of coffee, drive through a carwash, load the dishwasher. Our lives are full of little five minute segments. Every day they tick-tock by. Mundane. Average. Ordinary.

Now, imagine your life changing. Forever.
In 5 minutes.

Imagine a windstorm knocks down a tree that lands on your house or a tornado levels the business where you work. Imagine a flash flood inundating your neighborhood, a wildfire destroying the summer cabin that’s been in your family for three generations or a landslide closing the highway you drive to get your kids to school. Imagine an earthquake, out of the blue, altering your community forever. It could happen in the span of five minutes.

What would that look like? How would you respond? What would it take for you, for your family, to recover?

With so many natural disasters happening recently, the word resilience is showing up in many places these days. From local news reports to federal policy documents, being “resilient” is something we are being increasingly encouraged to develop, build or achieve. So what does it mean? How can it apply to you?

In the context of natural disaster events and other emergencies, resilience is the ability to bounce back from whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Simply stated, resilience is the ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt to and recover from life disruptions.

Easy to say, harder to do. Developing resilience does not happen overnight. Resilience is not something you simply acquire; it is something you have to build and maintain. Like a muscle, resilience must be developed through regular exercise, use and nourishment.


First, it’s important to maintain.

Multiple backup options. Counting on a single source of water, evacuation route or emergency contact is insufficient. Operate on the assumption that if it can go wrong, it will. Then plan to have one or more alternatives available. Until a natural disaster happens, you won’t really know exactly what you’re going to need. For this principle, variety really is the spice of life.

Make a commitment to learn. How many times have you turned on the TV after a disaster to hear someone say some version of, “We never expected something like this to happen here.” While some things truly are unexpected, the vast majority of disasters happen in areas where those events are known to occur. Take the time to find out the types of disasters your area is vulnerable to. You might be surprised.

Get involved. Never canned food before? Sign up for a food preservation class through your local community college or university extension office. Live in a wildfire area and have concerns about the lack of defensible space in your neighborhood? Attend a neighborhood meeting and suggest starting an annual yard cleanup program. Unsure about the evacuation and release procedures at your child’s school? Make an appointment with the principal or attend a parent-teacher meeting. Broadening your participation can expose you to perspectives, information and knowledge that will benefit you down the road. In addition, your involvement may increase the capacity of your community to be resilient as well.

Connect with others. The more people you know, trust and can count on, the more resilient you’ll be. Get to know your neighbors. Talk to friends across town. Maintain relationships with family and friends who live farther away. You never know when you might need help from someone next door or in the next state over.

5 minutes: The time it takes to write down ten important phone numbers on a
card to stick in your purse or wallet.

5 minutes: The time it takes to find that old pair of sneakers and camp light to
put next to your bed.

5 minutes: The time it takes to fill up an extra propane tank the next time you
head down to the gas station.

5 minutes: The time it takes to show your kids how to turn off the water and
gas mains in your house.

Take the time.

Making regular investments in yourself, your family and your community will
pay dividends.

No matter what happens, you’ve got this!



Josh Bruce is program director at the Community Service Center-  Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience at the University of Oregon. He serves as a legislative and policy affairs committee member in the American Planning Association (Oregon Chapter), member of the board with the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup and advisor to Terra Frma.

Tags: Resilience